National Women’s Equality Day
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National Women’s Equality Day falls annually on August 26th. This is the date that the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment of the Constitution in 1920. It is important to recognize that the 19th Amendment granted only white women full and equal voting access and rights.
“While the 15th Amendment (passed in 1870) barred voting rights discrimination on the basis of race, it left the door open for states to determine the specific qualifications for suffrage. Southern state legislatures used such qualifications—including literacy tests, poll taxes, and other discriminatory practices—to disenfranchise a majority of Black voters in the decades following Reconstruction. As a result, white-dominated state legislatures consolidated control and effectively reestablished the Black codes in the form of so-called Jim Crow laws, a system of segregation that would remain in place for nearly a century. In the 1950s and ‘60s, securing voting rights for African Americans in the South became a central focus of the civil rights movement.” – When Did African Americans Actually Get the Right to Vote? by Sarah Pruitt.
National Women’s Equality Day also celebrates organizations over the country that are working hard to provide all women with equal opportunities in employment and education. This day is a celebration of how far we have come to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women.
At the formation of our country, only rich white male property owners were given the right to vote. In 1830, many states extended these rights to all white men. A small step in the right direction; however, this still didn’t allow people of color or women the right to vote. This resulted in many civil rights movements all over the United States. These movements consisted of anti-slavery movements, the temperance movement as well as the moral reform movement. Women played a major role in many of these movements.
It was not until 1848 when a group of many women and a few men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to talk about women’s rights. This group proclaimed that women should be treated as individuals and not as properties of their husbands or fathers.
After a couple of years, this group started to grow larger and larger. In the 1890s, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was created. This group fought for women to be given the right to vote. By the end of the 1900s, Idaho and Utah had allowed women to vote. By 1910, there were more states that started to extend the right to vote to women. This was primarily seen in many western states. Many southern and eastern states still refused to allow women to vote. In 1920 the 19th Amendment of the Constitution passed, which allowed women all over the United States to vote.
Although this day is celebrated because of what happened in August of 1920, it was not until July of 1971 when representative Bella Abzug proposed a bill to congress that designated this day as National Women’s Equality Day. In 1973, Congress then passed a joint resolution declaring that August 26th be a day to celebrate women’s equality. Every president since this day in 1973 has celebrated this day with an official proclamation.
Ways to Celebrate
A good way to celebrate this day is to learn about the 19th Amendment of the Constitution. Learn more about the history of the fight for women’s equal rights. You could visit a museum or website that is dedicated to this subject. Look into what you can do to further support the fight for equality.
There has been much progress over the years for women’s rights. There are many brave women in the United States who fought hard over the years for the rights we currently have. If it weren’t for these courageous women fighting, we, as women, would not have the rights and opportunities that we have currently today.
Learn about some of the women who fought for equal rights:
– Between Two Worlds: Black Women and the Fight for Voting Rights
– Women Who Fought for the Vote
– African American Women Leaders in the Suffrage Movement
Although there has been much progress made for women’s rights over the years, there is still progress that needs to be made to fully reach equality between men and women. Reproductive rights and the gender wage gap are just a few of the many areas where women are continuously fighting for equality. The reality is that women are still fighting for equal rights despite the progress that has been made in the struggle for gender equality. Women, particularly women of color, still face discrimination and experience many barriers that affect their participation in society.
Author: Samantha Potocnik
Samantha is an intern at EVOLVE and a student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.